A randomized clinical trial with oral Immunonutrition (omega3-enhanced formula vs. arginine-enhanced formula) in ambulatory head and neck cancer patients

Ann Nutr Metab. 2005 Mar-Apr;49(2):95-9. doi: 10.1159/000084742. Epub 2005 Mar 29.


Objective: The aim of our study was to investigate whether oral ambulatory nutrition of head and neck cancer patients, using an omega3 fatty acid-enhanced diet (low ratio omega6/omega3 fatty acids) versus an arginine-enhanced diet, could improve nutritional variables as well as clinical outcome, postoperative infectious and wound complications.

Research methods: A population of 73 ambulatory postsurgical patients with oral and laryngeal cancer were enrolled. At discharge from hospital the postsurgical head and neck cancer patients were asked to consume two units per day of either a specially designed omega3 fatty acid-enhanced supplement (group 1) or an arginine-enhanced supplement (group 2) for a 12-week period.

Results: No significant intergroup differences in the trend of the three serum proteins and lymphocytes were detected. Differences were detected in weight (group 1: 65.5 +/- 11.5 kg vs. 70.4 +/- 11.1 kg; p < 0.05) with a significant increase in fat mass in group 1 (15.4 +/- 6.6 vs. 18.1 +/- 8.4 kg; p < 0.05) and in tricipital skinfold. The postoperative infectious complications were similar in both groups (0 in group 1 and 8.57% in group 2; nonsignificant). No local complications were detected in the surgical wound. Gastrointestinal tolerance (diarrhea and vomiting episodes) of both formulas was good.

Conclusions: At the dose taken, the omega3-enhanced formula improved fat mass and proteins in ambulatory postoperative head and neck cancer patients. The arginine-enhanced formula improved proteins. Further studies are required to examine the potential role of immune-enhanced supplements.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Administration, Oral
  • Ambulatory Care / methods*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arginine / administration & dosage
  • Arginine / adverse effects
  • Arginine / therapeutic use*
  • Arm / physiology
  • Blood Proteins / drug effects
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / blood
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status / drug effects
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Proteins
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Arginine